Trimming the fat-talk

| Contributing Reporter

For one week, “fat” is the new F-word.

From Oct. 19-23, Washington University will participate in a national “Fat Talk Free Week,” in which participating students will sign pledges agreeing to think positively about their bodies.

The Reflections Body Image Program of Tri Delta created Fat Talk Free Week last year. On the University’s campus, the student group Reflections—not associated with Tri Delta’s Reflections Program—will run the event.

Reflections promotes positive body image and spreads eating disorder awareness.

“Nowadays, these issues are really starting to become very prevalent, and more people are starting to pay attention,” said senior Tess deBlanc-Knowles, event chair for Fat Talk Free Week at the University. “I think it’s really important that we’re on campus now.”

Fat Talk Free Week aims to ban the use of the word “fat” and other terms associated with a negative body image.

“Our modern society, especially on college campuses, is [a] breeding ground for negative body image,” deBlanc-Knowles said. “We really have to cultivate a positive body image for every person to be comfortable with themselves.”

The standards for a positive body image are not extreme or even out of reach.

“A healthy body image is someone who is comfortable in his or her body,” Steve Kraushaar, staff psychologist at the Habif Health and Wellness Center, wrote in an e-mail to Student Life.

Students with healthy body images “are not spending excessive time focused on their body that may result in interference with academic and social functioning or general quality of life,” Kraushaar wrote.

During Fat Talk Free Week, participants will wear pins as reminders to “be cognizant, for this one week, of how many times a day they think negative thoughts about themselves or others,” deBlanc-Knowles said.

Students may participate by signing pledges to be “fat talk free” for the week.

“The Underpass itself will be a blank petition,” said senior and Reflections president Sara Silbert. “We’re also going to have a big board outside the DUC. Every day, there will be those places that people can come sign.”

Fat Talk Free Week has both short and long term goals for improving body image.

Reflections would like to see students refrain from thinking negatively about their bodies, “even if it’s just for that one week,” deBlanc-Knowles said. “Hopefully, that’ll spark something in them to try and change their thinking so they think about themselves in a more positive way.”

Silbert added that one objective of Fat Talk Free Week is to encourage students to appreciate their bodies and stop comparing themselves to others.

Struggles with body image are not uncommon on college campuses.

“85 percent of college females believe that they are either slightly or seriously overweight,” Kraushaar wrote. “Males tend to have less body image concerns, however, they can still be quite significant.”

Body image concerns may be related to the media. Kraushaar noted that women’s magazines tend to have 10 times more advertisements about body image and weight loss than men’s magazines. Many of these magazines emphasize weight loss over health.

“It is important to note,” he continued, “that far fewer individuals will act on [body image issues] with disordered eating behaviors. Some studies suggest that 10 percent of female students have engaged in self-induced vomiting.”

Fat Talk Free Week might help students begin the process of improving their body images.

“Beginning the process of accepting their bodies may result in [students’] engaging in therapy or other valuable resources,” Kraushaar wrote.

Other universities in Missouri planning to participate in Fat Talk Free Week include Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri – St. Louis and five others.

Wrote Kraushaar: “Anytime we break down prejudice about words that have been historically inflammatory or hurtful we are moving in the right direction.”

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